Red Deer-based singer/songwriter Curtis Phagoo continues to explore his own artistic vision through a range of pursuits

Local singer/songwriter looking to help grow city’s music scene

Curtis Phagoo focused on other musicians while expanding his own vision.

Local band the Heartbroke Heroes will be showcasing their superb musical strengths during a show at The Vat on Friday, April 14. The show marks something of a new chapter for the band, whose members are working on new music with a new CD release in sight.

Frontman Curtis Phagoo couldn’t be happier with what the guys are up to, and fans will enjoy hearing cuts from the past several years plus perhaps a sampling or two of what will no doubt be some stellar tunes for upcoming projects.

He said they are also honoured to have their good friend Tyler Allen and his band kick off the evening as well.

For his part, it is frankly almost astonishing how much Phagoo has been up to in pursuing his craft lately. But it’s not just about his own artistic vision Phagoo is committed to helping grow the local music community through a number of ventures, including monthly Behind the Grind Songwriter Showcases, the next of which runs tonight at the International Beer Haus featuring Denver Swainson, Boots Graham, Mitchell Chase and Joe Matthews.

Phagoo sees the showcases as a means to help artists connect, create and rejuvenate. “I’m trying to create even more of a community in Red Deer for music,” he explained. “So far, the Behind the Grind Songwriter Showcases have been all Central Alberta-based. I’m pulling musicians from different genres and different backgrounds and different circles into shows together, to try and bring these circles together.

“And it’s working,” he said with a smile. The first showcase was held back in January and indeed, it’s proven to be something of a magical experience.

The idea for the showcase was sparked following the Red Deer Entertainment Awards which were held this past January.

Phagoo was nominated in the singer/songwriter category along with several others. And although he didn’t land the award, he was inspired to get together with the other nominees and put on a singer/songwriter type of show.

“What a great opportunity to do a showcase! Let’s take these five songwriters who have been nominated and put on a show. We did it and it was fantastic,” he recalled. “We decided then to do it again. And at that moment, I said let’s not just do this again let’s look ahead six months and let’s do this.” Since then, for the monthly event, various artists have been featured.

“It’s been amazing there has been lots of collaboration onstage, and storytelling we talk about being songwriters and being band leaders. This one tonight will really be quite fun because I’ve taken four frontmen out of their bands and will be putting them onstage with an acoustic guitar. This way, they can maybe explore some of their catalogue that they don’t usually play,” he said.

“Right now, this is where my music career has really settled is in the growth of this kind of scene in Red Deer.”

For Phagoo, music was always something of an interest, but originally not what he aimed to tackle as a career.

After completing high school, he signed up for theatre studies at Red Deer College with an eye on the technical aspects of theatre. But one day, he saw a Thursday afternoon concert at RDC and promptly knew he was in the wrong program.

He dropped out the next day and switched to music studies.

These days, the married and busy father of two pointed out that having a family only serves to enhance his creative output. To a degree, it’s about time management and that can make for a higher quality in the work.

“It almost makes it easier, because now you have to prioritize,” he explained of being a husband and father as opposed to the single life.

“Your job is to support your family. So when it comes to music, it’s not about playing every weekend it’s about being at home, writing music, writing grants and producing.”

He’s been also working and mentoring with some musicians in the local scene, including Tyler Allen who is joining the Heartbroke Heroes at the coming show at The Vat. “I just did a four-song EP for him that he’s just releasing online,” he said.

Adding to an already busy schedule, Phagoo also books jazz shows for the One Eleven Grill in Red Deer. Oh yes, and he works full time as a goldsmith in the family business. And he’s part of another popular local band the KlamDaggers.

Ultimately, Phagoo manages to balance it all extremely well while staying fresh and creative. Last fall, he spent a month at the Banff Centre to work on music and just soak in the tremendous sense of creativity that resonates through that extraordinary place.

“I applied with a project which I was going to do the pre-production for. I had the songs written and everything. But once I got there, I realized that it was all going to be about songwriting, so I just continued to write,” he said. “So I went there to do all this work, and I did do a lot of work but none of it was what I had intended to do. And the Banff Centre was totally fine with that.” He penned about eight new tunes some of which will ultimately be recorded by the Heartbroke Heroes. Their first disc was released back in 2011.

That sense of support he received there is now something he wants to provide in Red Deer to other musicians. “That’s kind of what I brought home from Banff,” he said.

Meanwhile, Phagoo couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling path.

“It’s about being more collective as a community,” he said. “The songwriters’ shows themselves are about being a collective it’s about a group of people who can encourage each other.”

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